White Light Provides Shakespeare’s Globe with First Ever Theatrical Lighting Rig

Opened in 1997, Shakespeare’s Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre – an Elizabethan Playhouse in London, which housed William Shakespeare’s original works and plays. Today, the theatre is dedicated to the exploration of Shakespeare’s work; both performance and education. Similar to the original productions, daytime performances within the venue have always used natural daylight, whilst evening shows use a broad wash of tungsten floodlighting.

Since its inception, the venue is installing a theatrical lighting rig and has approached WL to provide the equipment for the installation.

The rig has been installed as part of Emma Rice’s first season as Artistic Director. The Lighting Designer is Malcolm Rippeth, who is also lighting two of the shows in the opening season. Malcolm commented the following: “The Globe has always been a space for experimentation, which is reflected by the introduction of theatrical lighting. Emma’s work was always going to involve the highest production standards and it’s important to remember that Shakespeare himself used all the theatrical technology available to him during that time.”

Malcolm’s brief for the installation was to create the most flexible and state-of-the-art system possible whilst ensuring that it was visually unobtrusive. Malcolm also stated that ultimately it was about minimising the rig’s visual intrusion into the space whilst providing the various lighting designers with the widest range of options possible.

The fixed rig consists largely of ETC ColourSource PARs which provide a defined area system across the stage with full colour mixing. For moving lights, MAC Viper Performances were used in overhead positions whereas the SGM G-Profiles were used as front of house units.

Malcolm also added on the challenges faced: “The trickiest part of the rig was finding a good backlight fixture, as these units are most prominently in the audience’s sight-lines. As regular moving heads were out of the question due to their size, I drew on the GLP X4 Battens which are a tilting, zoomable, colour-changing strip. These are visually extremely discreet whilst providing the exact effects required”.

As this was such a huge change from the very simple lighting used previously at Shakespeare’s Globe, this meant Malcolm had to work closely with the technical team at the venue. The introduction of the lighting rig meant significant changes across the entire building. There was lots of electrical and rigging infrastructure that needed to be installed, all of which had to be completed by the new season. Thankfully the entire Production team at the Globe rose to the challenges brilliantly.

The lighting rig has already been used on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew and Macbeth and will continue to be used throughout the season. It is expected that the rig will evolve and adapt for future seasons, being even more sympathetic, discreet and flexible next year, with WL supporting the continued development. WL have been hugely supportive from the start, constantly going that extra mile to get Malcolm and his crew the equipment needed, whilst also working within budget.

Bryan Raven, WL’s Managing Director provided concluding comments: “Obviously we are delighted to be part of theatre history by supplying Shakespeare’s Globe with a theatrical lighting rig for the first time. A large majority of lighting that Malcolm drew on actually came from our £3 million annual investment in new equipment. Such an investment enables us to provide venues and lighting designers with the latest technology possible; as proven with Shakespeare’s Globe.”